Israel to Ease Up on Gaza Blockade

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israel decided Monday to ease a blockade of Gaza imposed in retaliation for rocket attacks, saying it will allow some food and fuel for one day. Israel's announcement follows a UN warning that international food aid to the impoverished territory may be suspended by the weekend.

The closure cut off fuel supplies and shut Gaza's power plant, leaving one-third of Gaza's 1.5 million people without electricity. Gas stations and many bakeries closed, and health officials warned of an impending crisis in hospitals running low on generator fuel.

Before agreeing to the one-time shipment of diesel fuel and medicine to Gaza on Tuesday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert strongly defended the blockade, imposed late last week after a spike in rocket fire on Israeli border communities.

Olmert told legislators from his Kadima Party that while he would not allow a humanitarian crisis to develop, Gaza's residents will not be able to live a "pleasant and comfortable life" as long as southern Israel comes under rocket attack.

"As far as I'm concerned, Gaza residents will walk, without gas for their cars, because they have a murderous, terrorist regime that doesn't let people in southern Israel live in peace," Olmert said.

The Islamic militant Hamas government issued emotional appeals to the Arab world, and demanded that Egypt open its border with Gaza to allow in supplies.

"We are asking Arab and Muslim nations not to leave the Palestinians alone to face the terrorist country of America and the Zionist entity," said Gaza's Hamas strongman, Mahmoud Zahar, in a televised speech.